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El Chapulín Colorado (Spanish: The Red Grasshoper) is a television series, created and played by Roberto Gomez Bolaños, also known as Chespirito, a successful Mexican comedian and TV show producer, which parodied superhero shows. It was first aired in Mexico by the Televisa network in 1970, but then was aired across Latin America and Spain until 1979, alongside sister production El Chavo del Ocho, which shared the same cast of actors. Both shows are incredibly enduring as they still are constantly re-run, and have won back some of their popularity in several countries such as Colombia, where it has aired in competition with The Simpsons (which has a character based on him). The name translates literally in English as "The Red Grasshopper" (the word chapulín is of Nahuatl or Aztec origin, and a current part of Mexican Spanish).
The show's success was largely due to the fact that it embodied many aspects of Latin and Mexican culture, while making a critique on the unrealistic image of superheroes. From the name itself to the slang and proverbs, Chespirito made a great effort to reflect Latin culture. Many of his characters' names start with "Ch" (formerly a separate letter in the Spanish language) and several secondary characters with the Spanish letter "Ñ".
The typical Chapulín episode had some person get in trouble and say aloud, "Oh! And who can help me now?" followed by Chapulín bursting in through the nearest available opening or materializing inside a wardrobe, under the sheets of a bed or the like. He would be immediately recognized (regardless of the time or place- one episode took place in the Planet Venus, for example) causing him to boast, only to stumble and fall right away. For some reason, Chapulín is believed by people to be a great superhero, but they usually end up disappointed when they realize he is actually puny and timid. Despite this, Chapulin did try his best to help, and all his adventures ended well (though sometimes by sheer good luck or outside help.)
The show featured a permanent cast of actors. However, the only actor from El Chavo to have a recurring role in El Chapulín Colorado was writer and director Chespirito, as a different cast of characters was featured every episode. He was a superhero who dressed all in red, with yellow shorts and shoes, (although sometimes he used an alternative yellow uniform), and bore a yellow heart on his chest with CH inscribed in red (akin to Superman's "S"). He had two red and yellow antennae, which he called his "antenitas de vinil" ("little vinyl antennae") that beeped whenever something dangerous approached. He always carried a red hammer, which he called his "chipote chillón" ("squeaky mallet") as his weapon (much like Thor's Mjolnir), and could take his famous "pastillas de chiquitolina" ("tinycyline pills"), which would shrink him down to the size of a mouse. He also had a "chicharra paralizadora" ("paralyzing horn"): a bicycle horn that, when aimed at a person or object and sounded, would freeze it immediately in mid-air.
Seemingly parodying Superman's "Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive" introduction, Chapulín was introduced as follows in the show's opening:
- Más ágil que una tortuga, más fuerte que un ratón, más noble que una lechuga, su escudo es un corazón... ¡Es el Chapulín Colorado!
- (More agile than a turtle, stronger than a mouse, nobler than lettuce, his shield is a heart... It's the Red Grasshopper!)
Usually, the show would introduce the characters of the current episode until one of them was endangered or victimized in some way, at which point they voiced the catchphrase "Oh, y ahora ¿quién podrá defenderme/nos?" ("Oh, who can save me/us now?"), or "Oh, y ahora ¿quién podrá ayudarme/nos?" ("Oh, and now, who can help me/us"). Chapulín would appear out of nowhere (usually dropping or hurting himself with something as he did), and say "¡Yo!" ("Me!"), to which the people in need would instantly yell "¡El Chapulín Colorado!" ("The Red Grasshopper!"), after which he'd be greeted by the victim(s). He always answered with his catchphrase "¡No contaban con mi astucia!" ("They did not count on my cleverness!").
Some of Chapulín's other famous phrases include:
- "¡Síganme los buenos!" ("Good guys, follow my lead!") — as he would sometimes later on walk into a wall or fell from where he was standing. It would occasionally prompt the villains to say later on "¡Síganme los malos!" ("Bad guys, follow my lead!")
- "Lo sospeché desde un principio" ("I suspected it all along") — which he would say after someone pointed out something obvious that he had missed
- "Lo hice intencionalmente, para..." ("I did it intentionally, to...")- to justify a dumb action, for example: "I did it intentionally to calculate the resistance of the wall", after walking straight into it.
- "Todos mis movimientos están fríamente calculados" ("All my movements are coldly calculated") - his explanation for falling on his face, breaking something valuable, etc. May be spoken stand-alone, but always follows the previous quote.
- "Se aprovechan de mi nobleza" ("They take advantage of my nobility") — which he would usually say after an insult, like "We should've called Superman or Batman...", or when he is forced to do something against his will)
- "Yo opino..." ("In my opinion...") — a phrase always left unfinished because someone always interrupts him. Sometimes with "¡No opines, Chapulín!" ("Don't give your opinion, Grasshopper!"), but mostly with others insisting on their point, not letting him bring it up again.
- Also, in trying to provide advice, he would take two traditional two-part Spanish sayings and mix them up, always beginning with "Como dice el viejo y conocido refrán..." ("As the old and well-known saying goes..."). For example, "Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos" ("Raise crows and they'll pluck your eyes out"; i.e., what goes around comes around) and "Crea fama y échate a dormir" ("Make a name for yourself and then go to sleep"; i.e., once you have made a reputation for yourself, things will take care of themselves) become "Cría cuervos y echate a dormir... No, no, no... Crea buena fama y te sacaran los ojos... No... (in this part, he begins to mix both wrongly said quotes creating an elongated phrase confusing both himself and his listeners) "Bueno, la idea es esa." ("Raise ravens and then go to sleep... No, no, no... Make a good name for yourself and they'll peck out your eyes... No... (in this part, he begins to mix both wrongly said quotes creating an elongated phrase confusing both himself and his listeners) Well, that's the idea.")
- "Que no cunda el pánico" ("Nobody panic") would become "Que no panda el cúnico" ("Pabody nonic").
Also sometimes, if hit sharply in the head, when coming to his senses, Chapulín would mutter rapidly all of his catchphrases.
Pioneer in visual effects
With Chapulín, Chespirito, along with his production team, made extensive use of the chroma key device and bluescreen to produce visual effects which made the adventures of this superhero more interesting. Though somewhat unrefined by modern standards, the show achieved surprising effects like floating in the air or flying, performing impossible acrobatics, fighting against Martians, strange creatures, witches and all kinds of monsters, and, most often, to get the physical reduction effect thanks to his famous "pastillas de chiquitolina", which Chapulín used with measure to pass under doors, reaching dangerous areas without attracting attention or solve any problem with the size-changing trick.
This innovation, which was already known in Mexican television but not widely used, gave Chapulín the distinction of being virtually the only adventure-comedy broadcast in Mexico.
The show's heavy use of chroma key directly influenced the character's costume design. Red was the color that worked best with the chroma key.
Chapulín has enjoyed great popularity all over Latin America, the United States, Spain and other countries, albeit somewhat less than its sister production of El Chavo. Like El Chavo del Ocho, it is still shown in reruns in various countries. The cast of Chapulín was the same as that of El Chavo, although only actors Florinda Meza, Carlos Villagrán and Ramón Valdés were usually in every episode, however the characters usually were different. Some of the regular (albeit infrequent) characters who appeared, usually Chapulín foes, were El Tripaseca (Valdés) and El Cuajinais (Villagrán), a pair of Mafiosi who liked to make heists, as well as concurrent superhero Super Sam (played by Valdés too; see below). One-off villains, mostly those played by Valdés, like Wild West outlaw El Rascabuche, are also fondly remembered by fans.
Shorter Chapulín adventures were preceded by a skit, usually featuring Chespirito's other characters, like Dr. Chapatín, a tactless, impatient old physician, or El Chómpiras, an incompetent thief in the skit called Los Caquitos, alongside with El Peterete, played by Ramón Valdés. Chompiras and his new partner in crime, El Botija, played by Edgar Vivar, came to dominate the later years of Chespirito, an hourlong showcase for all the characters of the show.
The physical diversity of Chespirito actors permitted the richness of characters in the adventures, each week a new one. Chapulín was a hero of undetermined geographic and temporal location: his adventures could unfold in the American Old West, in ancient China, in London, in the Swiss Alps, during the Spanish Inquisition, in pirate ships, in Nazi Germany (an episode in which Chespirito played a double role as Chapulín and as Adolf Hitler himself, in the style of Charles Chaplin's The Great Dictator) or outer space, and his enemies range from the Yeti to Egyptian mummies, including his interaction, in some occasions, with literary characters such as Romeo and Juliet ("Juleo y Rumieta", or literally "Juleo and Rumiet").
El Chapulín Colorado is also very popular in Brazil. Strangely, the company Tec Toy (responsible for distributing the Sega consoles in Brazil) published a video game for the Sega Master System called Chapolim x Drácula: Um duelo assustador (Chapulín vs. Dracula: A Frightening Duel). It was a localization of another existing SMS title, Ghost House, with the hero's graphics changed to Chapulín's.
Recently, an animated movie of the character has been announced. It will be released in the theaters by the summer 2009.
The Simpsons' creator Matt Groening has declared that he created the Bumblebee Man character after watching El Chapulín Colorado on television at a motel on the U.S.-Mexico border. (This notwithstanding, the Bumblebee Man character also bears resemblances to an early Saturday Night Live recurring sketch with "Mexican killer bees".) Simpsons fans sometimes call the character Chespirito, even though Bumblebee Man is only based on his character. It should also be mentioned that many Simpsons characters enjoy Chespirito/Bumblebee Man's show; competing comedian Krusty the Klown watches one gag and remarks in admiration, "I gotta steal that bit." Bumblebee Man's show also features characters similar to Doña Florinda and Quico (with the inevitable stereotyping mustache), as well as Chómpiras.